“This is going to be casual,” Kate says, referring to PechaKucha(ish) Night at ICA. Some of the artists in Kate’s current show, One is the loneliest number, along with some other artists, designers, and musicians, are here to present us their work, super fast. PechaKucha, a Japanese invention, is kind of like bonsai for lectures. The idea is that you show 20 slides for 20 seconds each. It’s not easy to stay within the time limit, but we have a buzzer if they run over.
Kate goes first, showing slides of and talking about her ideas for her show, which presents the work of collaborative duos. She explains that PechkKucha(ish) night is the brainchild of Megawords, a collaboration between Anthony Smyrski and Dan Murphy that makes zines, inhabits storefronts, and broadcasts a radio show. As one of the duos represented in One is the loneliest number, they have been programming events at ICA this spring and summer. “We are actually part of the Megawords project right now!” Kate says, and then the buzzer goes off.
After Kate, as the light fades from the sky out on ICA’s terrace, a diverse procession of artists and designers take the microphones, waving the remote like a magic wand at the computer projector. In the spirit of PechaKucha, I will evoke each one briefly, bonsai fashion.
Julien Bismuth and Lucas Ajemian: “I want to talk to you a little about efficiency…What we look at as inefficiency is sort of the point of making art.”
Gary Fogelson and Phil Lubliner: An idea for a new alert system for the U.S. to replace the current color coding. When everything’s okay, play the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby.” When things are bad, play The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”
Matt Suib and Nadia Hironaka: “We work in time-based media.” They showed gorgeous clips from their videos and might have been the only ones who didn’t get the buzzer!
Megawords: There’s a piano in the People’s Museum in St. Louis you can carve your name in.
The Dufala Brothers: “We make exaggerated tools that are completely useless.” (I love the old-fashioned typewriter with keys the size of sunflower seeds.)
Rebekah and Sara Maysles (the Maysles sisters): They went away to an island alone together for four months to work on their book of interviews, collaged illustrations, and other archival material related to Grey Gardens, the cult film made by their father and uncle (the Maysles brothers). Also, they cook together.
Big Brad and Rachel (who deejayed the evening’s music): “We’re not crazy radical revolutionaries, but we’re ready for the revolution!”
A last minute addition was John Taylor, a local carpenter who collaborates with his dad. John designed and built the chairs (he calls them love seats) currently on ICA’s mezzanine, as part of Megawords’ programming of that space. “Do things for the love of doing them,” he said. “I just wanted to remind everyone that that’s what’s important.”
Something about tonight’s event reveals how much these artists and designers do love what they’re doing. Sometimes, when you’re in a gallery standing in the implacable, finished presence of the made, you can forget about the maker. But listening to these collaborators joke with each other and interrupt each other—seeing the easy rhythm between them—reminds you that making things is something real people really do. It makes you want to look around for a project, and someone to share it with.
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